NIKU’s Ambition and Direction Within the EU Initiative
NIKU’s European strategy is part of, and will contribute to, NIKU’s strategy (2018–2023), with emphasis on objective B: «By 2023, NIKU will undertake significantly more externally-funded research ». One of the indicators for fulfilling objective B is to be involved in at least five European research projects during that period. We will work diligently to establish NIKU as a leading research institution within the humanities in general, and within cultural heritage in particular.
In its strategy, NIKU has set down five priority areas that will guide most of our research activities. These key areas must be the driving force behind NIKU’s EU initiative:
- The Middle Ages: knowledge production based on our work with rescue archaeology
- Climate and environment-related issues affecting cultural heritage
- Digital heritage
- The role of heritage in the society
In order to achieve NIKU’s main objectives, we need to define and target our proposal activity, not only to particular sources of funding, but also to specific programs.
Most of NIKU’s enterprises in Europe in the coming years will follow the outlines of the EU’s ninth framework program for research and innovation, Horizon Europe. Within this program, there are several relevant initiatives:
Pillar I: Outstanding Science
Although most of NIKU’s researchers are active in applied research, there are several who work primarily in basic research. They often find it most fitting to aim for the European Research Council’s grant calls. NIKU currently employs researchers who are potential candidates for all three career stages of the ERC funding scheme, and we also see possibilities within the ERC Synergy Grants.
NIKU does not currently have an established program to receive applicants for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), but suitable candidates are invited to contact us and will be assessed on an individual basis.
Pillar II: Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness
Many of the topics highlighted under the heading “Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness“ are highly relevant to NIKU. Horizon Europe is directly investing in the field of cultural heritage through Cluster 2, but also indirectly, by more clearly earmarking relevant funds elsewhere, such as Cluster 5.
Cluster 2 (Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society) includes cultural heritage as one of its main subjects, and there are a number of topics and calls here that are relevant to NIKU. Our work largely pertains to the destination called Innovative Research on the European Cultural Heritage and the Cultural and Creative Industries. We have a significant network within the project areas covered by grants under this destination, as well as the necessary expertise and experience.
Within Cluster 5 (Climate, Energy and Mobility) we again find several areas where cultural heritage is pertinent as a case, or as a component of projects with a wider field of impact. In Norway, cultural heritage falls within the purview of the Ministry of Climate and the Environment, so we are used to viewing it through this lens, and much of our work is distinctly climate relevant.
Other clusters may also be relevant to NIKU’s work, such as Cluster 3 (Civil Security for Society) or Cluster 6 (Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment).
Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI)
JPIs are partnerships between some of the EU member states and associated countries to deal with important societal challenges. They are funded through joint effort by the EU and national research councils, including the Research Council of Norway. NIKU has frequently been active in JPIs. Assuming Norwegian participation, this will be an interesting channel for NIKU in coming years, especially JPI Cultural Heritage, where the topical grant calls in our field provide an excellent opportunity to develop international cultural heritage collaboration.
NIKU also sees potential in JPI Climate, and to a certain extent in JPI Urban as well.
We envision great benefits from participation under the JPI umbrella as a starting point for further collaboration towards Horizon Europe.
Interreg and Other European Programs
In recent years, NIKU has partnered in two Interreg projects. Both projects have been particularly thematically relevant, and helped create or further develop useful networks. However, such projects come at a significant cost, as the program’s funding model (like other EU programs) only allows a very limited overhead; and unlike the Horizon program, Interreg is not covered by the Research Council’s incentive schemes to offset this. Consequently, NIKU is open to participation in such projects provided they offer significant value to NIKU’s professional development.
The same assessment must underpin participation in a number of other European programs, including the so-called EEA Grants. This scheme covers both research and consultancy projects, the research projects being the most relevant for NIKU. These projects may in some cases create opportunities for us, through skills development and networking. The finances of EEA projects can be challenging and must be evaluated fully for each individual project.
Both research groups and individual researchers in NIKU can boast extensive international networks that may be actuated in regard to positioning and proposal development in relevant fields. NIKU will work methodically to expand its research network, including outside the field of cultural heritage. The goal is to be able to contribute actively to research projects where cultural heritage is just one piece in major societal issues, such as climate, democratisation, planning processes, digitisation, indigenous issues, ecosystem services and the circular economy.
Networking activities, such as active participation at relevant conferences, match-making events and the promotion of NIKU as a leader in its field, are important tools for achieving our goals of increased participation in European research.
Financing and other resources
To consolidate our commitment to European research funding programs, NIKU will apply for a framework grant from the Research Council’s scheme for Project Establishment and Positioning (PES). Along with other support schemes, this is crucial to enable research institutes such as NIKU to take part in European collaborations. This is especially true for the EU performance-based basic funding, or RES-EU for short (formerly STIM-EU).
To achieve its ambitions toward European research programs, when allocating internal research funds NIKU will prioritise measures that may lead to increased participation in research applications in the near future or in the long term, including those aimed at the EU.
Facilitation and Recruitment
To succeed with NIKU’s commitment to Europe, every level of the organisation needs to be involved. A proactive and focused research policy requires clear work priorities both for individual researchers and for NIKU as a whole.
In recent years, NIKU has pursued targeted competence building within both research and administration functions, and systematically recruited new researchers in fields that are relevant to Horizon Europe. These are important investments. The practice must be maintained to ensure that NIKU has the necessary professional capacity to apply for and run EU projects.
NIKU management must support their researchers in aiming for Europe, both in terms of motivation and competence building. NIKU’s research staff can use dedicated study time to pursue professional development. It is also crucial to facilitate competence building for administrative staff so they are better able to assist the researchers working on various proposals.
The research administration staff must be able to assist with:
- Reading work programs and grant calls; helping with their interpretation
- Providing administrative support in proposal work and in the event of a grant award
- Being a point of contact with the Research Council’s NCPs; passing on relevant information in-house
- Applying for and managing PES funds
- Monitoring the Research Council’s course portfolio; alerting likely participants
- Administrative research resources are linked to any approved projects, but must be needs-tested against the individual project
The economy staff must be able to assist with:
- Budget support and questions about finance in the application process
- Reporting, in the event of a grant award
The communication staff must be able to assist with:
- Providing expertise on impact, delivery, and communication of relevant projects
- Collaborating on the communication part of project proposals
- and assigned projects
Objectives for NIKU’s Work with European Research 2022-2026:
To contribute to solving global challenges in our field and thus help to realise European research objectives. We will accomplish this by:
- Staying consistently abreast of the opportunities provided by European funding sources
- Obtaining research funds from these sources
- Making sure NIKU’s academic priorities are also assessed based on research opportunities in the EU
- Building resources through recruitment and competence building on the research side
- Developing and maintaining an organisation that is conducive to receiving funds from European research funding sources
- Actively utilising national support resources to best achieve these objectives
We will carry out an evaluation of NIKU’s European strategy during the course of the period. The first evaluation point will be when NIKU’s strategy expires in 2023.